Mid to late nineties, a time when the three words melodic death metal didn’t leave a bitter aftertaste in the ringing silence that followed. The genre was on a tidal wave of progression with At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames at the fore. However many bands within the Gothenburg scene were layen by the wayside. Sacrilege, a side project of Daniel Svensson of In Flames, was one of those bands. In their short tenure the band only produced two albums, The Fifth Season was their second and final effort.
The first fact is that this album is no genre innovator. In a similar vein to At The Gates, the instrumentation is restricted to the bare essentials of two guitars, drums, bass and acoustic guitar with the occasional lick of a keyboard. The results of this minimalism are very pleasing; while they bear the mark of In Flames’ energy, they bear none of the guitar masturbation that plagued The Jester Race. The lush and varied guitar riffs follow the fluid changes and variety of the drums. In turn the drumwork’s varied arsenal of slight-of-hand tempo changes and furious bursts of energy allows for the intricacy of the guitar work to shine through. The detailing in the riffs can be specifically found in how they build a song towards the climax. Riffs are repeated and layered but subtle variations push the melodies along at a frenetic pace with very few disruptions. These variations allow for the song structure to be quite loose for both ease of flow and subtle meshing of the keyboard and acoustic guitar work into the song structure. However Sacrilege have a firm hold on these melodies, their restraint on using this extra instrumentation keeps the core of each song intact and never allows the music to wander. This level of skill in being able to create complex and focused melodies does separate Sacrilege from its peers but unfortunately it is not enough.
Sacrilege’s traditionalism becomes a buffer to their musical potential. Although the riffs and drum rhythms are original, they sill abide by the same instrumental and structural conventions of the genre. This would be just a niggle if the band could play as well as their forebearers but Sacrilege cannot plum the same emotional depths. Every song is infected with Sacrilege’s enthusiam and passion for their music but that is all. Their energy is too overwhelming, there is little to no space for the other emotions to spread their wings. In the few places they can sore, they never reach the heights of melancholy and rage achieved by Dark Tranquillity or In Flames. The bizarre lyrical intertwinment of nature and psychology, too, never lifts itself from the booklet, even with Daniel Svensson’s competant vocals behind the mic. The majority of his vocals consist of pained, rhythmic screaming with the occasional lapse into a cookie-monster growl. The placing of the growls is effective, providing a noticeable tonal drop when they enter. However neither vocal style is able to convey any specific emotion. The vocals spring to life through the tribal rhythm of the music but their pain is undirected towards one emotion. They mesh well with Sacrilege’s overall sound but, like the rest of the music, it cannot quite capture the magic of their peers.
Perhaps the comparisons with their more famous contemporaries is harsh but Sacrilege’s style of music will inevitably draw them. Indeed with few obvious features to distinguish from the pack, the band fell into obscurity, their music becoming a rarity. This is a shame though as Sacrilege may never have been breaking new ground but they were playing the familiar with more gusto and talent than many today. The Fifth Season displays this perfectly and for that Sacrilege should feel proud.